By Steve wilaj
When asked what his team did well in its 79-60 season-opening victory against Boardman on Friday, East High boys basketball coach Dennis Simmons ironically was stumped.
He paused. Then thought. And thought. And thought some more.
“Our pace of the game was close to where we want it to be,” Simmons finally said. “We want to play at a high pace and we did that a little bit.”
In a matchup between two teams still trying to figure themselves out, the Panthers (1-0) outscored the Spartans 19-5 in the first quarter and 21-14 in the final period.
“We lack experience right now and we’re making some lineup shufflings,” Simmons said. “The ability to play complete games and do our jobs for all four quarters, we lack.
“But the best thing about it is we won and it’s Game One.”
Boardman (0-1) played it best in the middle quarters, outscoring East 41-39. The Spartans trimmed the deficit to 67-59 midway through the fourth until the Panthers pulled away.
Boardman head coach Pat Birch said he’s also trying to find his team’s identity.
“We have a lot of young guys playing this year,” Birch said. “I think the first quarter was a learning experience, then we settled down and saw a lot of improvement.
“We had a chance, missed a free throw or two and they hit a couple shots to push it to 15. That’s the game.”
A couple of those key buckets came from East’s Anthony Reid, who finished with a game-high 31 points. He was 12 of 19 from the field and knocked-down four 3-pointers.
“Coach told me ‘If you see it, just go and if you see somebody open, swing it,’” Reid said. “When my time came last year, I did what I had to do. This year I’m ready.”
Fellow senior Dalane Brown had 11 points and 13 rebounds for the Panthers. Meanwhile, Devon Martin added 11, Rashawn Boykin had eight and JaWuan Jones, Daryl Anderson and Qasim Muhammad each had six.
“It might be [scoring by committee early], but once we get some guys back, it’ll be more dominant,” Simmons said. “I think we have multiple guys that have the capability to put up 20-some points per game though.”
Preston Stitt and Marcus Smith each tallied 17 points to lead the Spartans. Bryan Fryda also had eight points. Boardman often substituted five players at a time.
“We’re still trying to figure out who our guys are gonna be,” Birch said. “Part of that is trial by fire to see who can handle situation. It might not be something we go with all year, but early on we’re gonna try to get guys experience and see who can play on the varsity level.”